Here’s something that I have found most humans have in common: at some point, we have tried to cut a deal with God. We’ve missed the curfew set by mom and dad, and we’re coming home way late, so we try this: “God, if you will just let them be asleep when I get home, I promise I will go to church.” Maybe it’s that formula, “God, If you will, I will. . .” Or, maybe it’s the “God, if will, I won’t or I’ll stop. . . “ Even atheists I have known, when at the end of their rope, will throw up a “To Whom It May Concern, just in case there’s anybody out there, I could sure use some help here.”
But here’s something else I know. We rarely keep our end of the bargain. If the parents are asleep, what do we say? “Yeah, what great luck—they were in bed when i finally got home!” Now, for those of us who tried to bargain, negotiate, or cut a deal with God, that process shows that we’ve got a lot of faith rattling around in us. For example, the only way that kind of offer from us makes sense is if you believe God exists. And more than that, you believe that he knows you exist, and that he knows your circumstances, and, here’s the kicker, that he gives a rip. You also believe something else—that you have something God wants. You’re trying for a win-win situation, aren’t ya? You and God each getting something you want.
But, as you ponder Christianity, we have to come face to face with this truth—God doesn’t really want anything from us. Instead, he wants something for us. And in Christian parlance, what we’re talking about here is grace. Chances are you’ve experienced pure grace somewhere in your life. Someone pays for your meal at the restaurant, or the car in front of you pays for you at the toll plaza. They’re not paying you back.They did it just because they wanted to. Grace—undeserved favor or unmerited favor. And when grace is handed out, the cost is paid, and the credit goes to, the person dispensing it. We don’t think how awesome we are when someone pays for our meal, but how awesome they are for having paid for us. And it wasn’t something you earned or deserved. It is handed out just because they wanted to. Grace is like getting something you don’t really deserve. It’s the flip side to mercy, which is not getting something you do deserve.
We see in a passage from the book of Ephesians this idea of God’s grace explained by the Apostle Paul. Here are the essential portions in the 2nd chapter, written to a group of Christians in the city of Ephesus
Eph. 2:1-9 - As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, but God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions. . . It is by grace you have been saved. .. through faith. And this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.”
So, we who are Christians once were dead, or separated from God, because of our sin. But, good news for us, God has enough mercy that if he used all he wanted to, he’d still have more left over. He’s rich in mercy! And the reason he has so much mercy is that he has this incredible love for you and me. I know a lot of people who think God just sits around being mad at us, not realizing that God is madly in love with us. And this is why we don’t have to bargain with God. He already loves us and is wanting to shower us with something good—just because he wants to. What he wants for us is to make us alive, to restore that relationship with him that our sin broke. And his mechanism for this is Jesus Christ. God did it all for us through Christ, through that cross thing.
And we get this grace, not by doing something, not by earning it, not by bargaining for it, but through faith. Now, we’ve already discovered that faith is simply hearing what God says and believing that it is true and that God will do exactly what he says he will. So, our part of receiving God’s grace is as simple as accepting the gift someone gave us by paying for our toll. “Hey, I believe someone paid for my toll. I’ll accept that gift and keep on driving. Thanks a ton, whoever you are!!”
Now, the practical part of all this for us is revolves around how we determine we end up in a good place with God. Is it what Paul just said—grace, a gift of God we didn’t deserve, through faith. Or, is somehow our behavior rolled into this equation? And here’s what I’ve found. Most people have concluded that our behavior it tied into it somehow. Maybe we think we’ve got to keep the 10 Commandments or follow the guidelines laid down by Jesus. We’re not sure where we got this idea, but we think it’s in the bible somewhere.
Here’s the problem—the bible is the last place we should look to try to find a list of behaviors we can keep to be on good terms with God. That list isn’t there. From front to back, what the bible proclaims is that if our behavior is involved, we are doomed, doomed, and—have I mentioned this before?—doomed! The 10 Commandments were given to God’s people AFTER they had a good relationship with Him, not BEFORE. And Jesus’ teaching in the New Testament had everyone muttering, “Man, if what Jesus is saying is true, there’s no hope for any of us. No way we can behave our way to a good place with God.” Yeah, they were right.
But the reality is that every religion out there, except Christianity, demands we keep some list of rule and regulations and behaviors to get into a relationship with God. Only Christianity offers that relationship as a free gift. The simple truth is that all of the "to-do’s" we have as Christians are given to us after we have a good relationship with God. And we learn that even accomplishing the “to do’s” is empowered by God himself, through another gift, that of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit encourages us and empowers us to grow up and act more and more like God would. You know why genuine Christians forgive, or give, or serve, or are kind, or put others first? Because God first forgave us, and gave to us, and served us, and was kind to us, and put us first. And his Spirit given to us loves to forgive, give, serve, be kind, and put others first. And he encourages and empowers followers of Christ to do the same.
See, even when Christians end up doing the right things, it’s all wrapped up in God’s gift of grace to us in Jesus and through His Spirit. God just says, “Quit already with trying to be good enough. Quit trying to bargain. Just accept the gift I’m handing out. It’s grace from me to you, just because. And it’s yours for the taking—just believe it.”
Check out this message and other messages in the series here!
A work of fiction..... or is it?
Previously I suggested that we are called to love God and love our neighbor, not just with our wallets but with our hearts, lives, backs, and brains. When we try to help but withhold what is needed at the time, we can harm, like giving water to a drowning man. As an idealistic youth I thought I could love my neighbor with all my being. Just do it. I had some success.
Yet as I journeyed again and again between Jerusalem and Jericho, again and again I found a victim beaten by robbers and ignored by passers-by. Sometimes he is the same victim! I call him "Vic". My ears got bigger, listening for robbers. I started packing bandages. The innkeeper and I became buddies.
“This is not sustainable,” I complained to Donkey. “But what can I do? Do I go all Batman on the robbers? Can I get Vic into a twelve-step program, ha, such that his steps are not on this scary road? Might I convince the priests and the Pharisees to agree on affordable care? Haha! Should I just turn it all over to the tenderness of the Romans?”
Thanks be to the Redeemer, I returned to Jerusalem in time for Pentecost. To my delighted surprise, I found people—thousands of people—suddenly compassionate, sharing all they had. Previously I, a Samaritan, would have been tolerated like a crow in the kitchen; ignore the unclean creature and maybe he will fly away. Now they embraced me and many foreigners as family. Why? They accepted us because of Jesus, the Messiah, who showed the kindness of the Lord to all people for all time. "This promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away."
Most important: I came to trust Jesus.
At first we were all socialists, very simple, no calculations of one-tenth or what is blemished. Just give all, share all things in common. Sharing came naturally for me. But some, I don’t know, maybe they wanted to hold onto money in case the Creator of the Universe forgot them. Worse, they pretended to give all. They thought that giving buys favor, like buying a melon in the market. No, no, no. We were murderers, robbing and killing the Righteous One. We deserved to die for our crime, but the King of Heaven pardoned us. This helps us trust him. He freely gave life to us, so we freely love, pardon, and give to our neighbor.
Time brought us many lessons about generosity. The men who had walked with Jesus, they were inspired guys, not bad for stinky fishermen, ha, says the stinky Samaritan. Like Moses, they learned to delegate. They knew what Jesus said. So mostly they told people what Jesus said. Duh! People like me and my new best friend Stephen, we were proven in doing kindness. So mostly we did kindness.
I loved working with Barnabas. Some people are robbed of money, some are robbed of health, some are robbed of justice. Some are robbed of hope. Barney was an encourager. Barney gave people hope! Thus our body of believers together achieved what Lone Rangers like I was could not do.
And yes, Barney is a Jew, I am a Samaritan, and Stephanos, er, Stephen, is Greek. This body also has Ethiopians, Arabs, Libyans, Romans, even Cretans. How we do not have a war every day is a miracle of the Spirit.
The Lord our Provider gives rain to all, good and bad. The question is not, who is deserving help. The question is discerning what help is needed now. What if there are many people needing help? Who do I help first? What if I give coins when a man needs bandages? Not helpful. Probably attracts robbers. Stephen, Barney, I, and the others, we learned discernment sometimes by mistakes, sometimes by the Spirit, but always by doing. We helped not just for people we see, but also those far away. Sometimes, believers far away helped us. We learned wisdom. For example:
Sometimes our leaders were blunt:
If I see you cannot work because you are beaten by robbers, ha, then, no question, I should help you. Love compels me to help you. But are you able but unwilling to work? Then no soup for you!
Funny thing--well, not funny, but you know.... I never heard Jesus talk or saw him, not even when that crazy lady told everyone he was in our town. I kick myself for missing that chance to see Jesus. Yet, robbers, filthy scum, they met Jesus in person! True, I would not want to meet in those circumstances. But a violent thug trusted Jesus, and Jesus gave him paradise! Is not life surprising? Among the followers of Jesus I have met robbers, former robbers that is. Who knows how our paths crossed before? Now we walk together. Is not the Holy One merciful?
It is also funny--well, not funny, but you know... I saw with my own eyes one man grin when Stephen died. A man I wanted to strangle. One of those arrogant, selfish teachers of the law who would walk by a suffering human made in the Creator's image. What is funny? Jesus met that cruel man on the road! Jesus talked to that miserable man! Jesus gave that man forgiveness. That man, now my brother, wrote these words, words that speak for me:
No matter how much I give, I cannot say I change people. Jesus changes people.
I give bandages, clothing, time, a donkey ride, food, a few coins. Jesus gives life!
Jesus changes victims into victors.
I pray that you and your family and the inn are doing well. Continue to be kind to strangers, for thus without knowing it some have entertained angels.
Your brother in Jesus,
(1) Early publications of this letter retained most names and terms in original transliteration, such as Yeshua for Jesus, Mashiach for Messiah, and Stephanos for Stephen. This was a failed attempt to hint that the early church was a big crazy mix of different cultures and nations who despised each other but became one in Christ. Retained is Sam's reluctance to use the word "God", in accord with the commandment, "Do not use the name of the LORD your God thoughtlessly". Jewish and Samaritan believers have a rich supply of beautiful and awesome names of God.
(2) The apostles and others following Christ over time learned better ways to help without hurting. They and other believers through the ages, as a team, eventually came up with wise practices that we should read and heed. That need for discernment noted, I aim to not withhold help because of fear, paralysis by analysis, misguided priorities, or failure to trust God to provide my needs.
(3) Kindness continues. Rarely does a recipient such as "Vic" need just one deed of kindness. It's almost never one and done. Sustaining the Christian life requires getting deep roots, being connected to the True Vine. If Vic by God's mercy and grace can grow, can change to become less dependent, even a giver himself, this takes time.
(4) Sam and Stephen were better at doing kindness than Peter, James, and John were. The Body of Christ together can do much together that members cannot accomplish in isolation.
(5) The Church brought joyfully together people who previously despised each other. Acts 2 lists various nations. Also in the body of Christ were robbers and victims. The body of Christ included arrogant white-collar intellectuals who became humble, such as the Apostle Paul, and stinky blue collars and no collars who were lifted up, such as the Apostle Peter. The church included jailors and the jailed, military leaders and terrorists, hippies and fashionistas, women and men, young and old, rich and poor. What's your church like?
We all probably did a few things as kids we knew were wrong. Taking that cookie we weren’t supposed to, biting or pushing someone who grabbed that toy from us, smearing lipstick all over the bathroom and failing to admit it without a little coercion, slipping that piece of candy into our pockets when no one was looking. In the grand scheme of things, more misdemeanors than felonies. Still, when caught, we had to apologize.
Here’s what most of us found out: growing up, that bad stuff we did got bigger and more serious. Along with it came something else: guilt and shame. Maybe there’s a night, or a weekend, or those college years, or that thing with the money, or that other thing with the boss, or that first marriage that we wish we could just go back and live over or erase somehow. We do all kinds of things to wash it away, but all we have to do is hear that song, be reminded of that name, drive down that street and BOOM, it all comes flooding back.
And there’s this sense that we owe something. We owed it to them to have been better parents, better husbands, better wives, better friends. We should never have talked to our daughter that way or said that to our son. We owed it to them to have had more patience or more character. If there was just a way to pay it back somehow, maybe that shadow or cloud that follows us around would be gone. We’ve all wondered whether there is a way to make that happen.
Now, every faith system, every religion offers a so-called solution for how to deal with our past, our shame, our guilt, how to move forward. Normally, it’s a list of things to do to make it all go away, to wipe the slate clean. But in all history, only one person stepped up and said, “I don’t have a solution you need to implement. I am the solution.” John the Baptist called him “the lamb that God sent to take away the sin of the world.” Not just the sin of Jews, but of Romans, and Greeks, and, yes, Americans. And me and you. That person John was referring to was Jesus. Now, the culture John the Baptist was talking to was familiar with sacrificial lambs, animals whose blood was shed to atone for or pay for the sins of people. But, these were not dumb people. They knew the blood of an animal was not worth that of a person, but they knew that sin had to be paid for by the death of something. They were just glad God allowed them to kill an animal rather than requiring the lives of people. So, animals did the trick temporarily, but there was one coming who would take away the sin permanently.
And Jesus, during his ministry, left clues that there was something to what John the Baptist had said. For example, on his last Passover with his disciples, Jesus shakes up their world. “Hey, you guys, from now on, no longer celebrate Passover as that moment when God delivered the nation of Israel from slavery in Egypt through the blood of a lamb smeared on doorposts. From now on, let’s do this. Let’s remember me.” Man, this is wild stuff. It’d be like me telling everyone that Christmas is going to be the time we celebrate my birthday every year. Somehow, I think the church would shrink dramatically the next Sunday.
But that night Jesus is arrested. He is put through a mock trial and crucified, and he bleeds out. And any guy who claims he is the lamb that God sent take away the sin of the world is either crazy, or he’s lying, or we might just have to pay attention. Because, look, we’ve done everything we know how to do to erase our past, to make up for those things, to make it all go away. And we know it hasn’t worked, any more than a serial killer who becomes a really nice inmate. It doesn’t matter how good you act on death row, none of that makes up for the slaughter of innocent victims back there in your past. So, it is possible that there really was someone who could take away our guilt, our shame, our mistakes?
Well, the Apostle Paul—you remember him, right? The Jew of Jews who made it his life’s goal to rid the world of Christians? Yeah, until the resurrected Jesus showed up and confronted him. Paul then became a Christian and planted more churches than anyone. Paul writes a letter to one of those churches, and he kinda spells out what John the Baptist and Jesus had alluded to. Paul says in Colossians, chapter 2, that Jesus forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness that condemned us. So, the reason we feel like we owe people is because we do. We owe not only them, but God himself.
So, if you’re sick and tired of trying to make things right, sick and tired of the guilt and shame and memories you can’t erase, maybe trusting that Jesus did what he said he would do once we declare him our savior and Lord—to pick those up and carry them away, erasing our debt to God completely. Not because we’re so wonderful, but because he is.
At age twenty to twenty-one, I took weekend trips with an older student, Al, to help with a small church in a poor section of north St. Louis. My first assignment was as bouncer for Sunday School. Kids around 4-7 years old would come to church bringing their toys—their sad, scary toys. My job while welcoming the kids was to secure objects that might distract during lesson time. Little girls solemnly deposited headless dolls or a single shoe, then darted off to play with friends. Boys often had an excellent stick to check in. “That’s a good stick, I’ll aim to see you get it back at the end,” I assured them. A pre-schooler handed over a steak knife stripped of its wooden handle. Behind him, his little brother turned in another such splinter of steel and rivets. A week or two later they brought spoons only; that we counted as progress in the Spirit.
When I visited the families of this church in their brick row apartments, the kind that were pizza ovens in the summer and well-ventilated in the winter, we ate a lot of cornbread and mashed peas. Their strong trust in God inspires me to this day. "God is good all the time." I was getting more ministry than giving. One family proudly noted that they were “originals”, having lived at this spot "since when it was cows". This was as distinct from the many newcomers they viewed with pity and caution, mostly refugees from Pruitt-Igoe.
In the 1950’s St. Louis built low-income housing about thirty minutes’ walk northwest from where the Gateway Arch would soon stand. Pruitt-Igoe was a concentration of thirty-three 11-story high-rises. Opening to applause from all, by the end of the 1960’s the Pruitt-Igoe complex had become a notorious refuge for misery and drug-dealing. In 1972-1974 the concrete buildings were all demolished.
Academics still are assessing blame for this debacle. A key factor was that even as Pruitt-Igoe was set in concrete, jobs fled. In two decades, center-city population halved. Maintenance of the high-rises stopped because it came from rents from a shrinking population of tenants who by definition had low-income jobs or no jobs. Economic robustness and sustainability of Pruitt-Igoe was BAD: Broken As Designed.
My hosts, originals and newcomers alike, had additional insights. They recalled that the dirt-floor slum communities and rural communities before Pruitt-Igoe at least had strong families and churches. They reminisced to this effect: “If I got in trouble in school, I knew I would get whomped-on, two, three, more times that day. Even before I get home, word flies to my aunty and her neighbor and my momma and my daddy. Kids these days, they got no one to whomp 'em.” Fathers with minimum-wage jobs often could not live with their families in subsidized housing. BAD.
A year after Pruitt-Igoe fell, in the suburbs ten miles to the north a naïve redneck turtle-loving farm boy ventured to disarm six-year-olds and show them Jesus loves them. The projects had been segregated; for example, the Pruitt section was for blacks, the Igoe section for whites. By contrast, this was a racially-mixed congregation. I had some success in building urban bridges. Eventually, though, I returned attention to my home area which had no lack of needs and didn't require five hours of driving. For over forty years I have pondered how the government program achieved the opposite of what it ostensibly sought. How might I have better worked with the people? Should I have stayed? With poignancy I have watched the recent news reports continuing from those people and that place, Ferguson, Missouri.
Utah's Strategy for the Homeless: Give Them Homes
You understand now why I did not jump up and dance. But I read on:
'We call it housing first, employment second,'
said Lloyd Pendleton, director of Utah's
Homeless Task Force. ... In 2005, Utah was
home to 1,932 chronically homeless. By
April 2015, there were only 178.
Giving away homes might work if only because the programs around Salt Lake City have not deployed Pruitt-Igoe-style concentration camps. Instead, Utah dispersed the gift homes, often in the scale of two-unit and four-unit condos. "Employment second" is better than 1960 St. Louis's "what employment?" Utah has local jobs programs. Having a home apparently makes most beneficiaries not lazy, but gives stability so they don't need to desperately cycle through minimum-wage jobs. There appears to be improved counseling and medical care. People also can have severe physical and emotional health needs, outlook needs, education needs, relationship needs, justice needs, and certainly God needs. The governments of Utah have addressed not all needs, but have recognized many kinds of needs for many kinds of people in a somewhat integrated way. So, no dance, but I see cause for a smile.
In recent months I've gotten updated on northern Virginia fragmented social services. As in most other places, food, housing, jobs, medical care, counseling, and other support programs each arose as separate legislation. Consequently, services are fractured in several dimensions: housing for families versus housing for vets; medical funding by federal, state, county, employer, and private means. A needy person visits several offices scattered around the county, fills out lots of forms, is frequently refused but politely redirected elsewhere, and yes, eventually returns to previously-visited offices and forms. I did do a little dance when one fellow I've been helping recently got a Medicaid approval. I resumed my seat when we found that the sole benefit for this 61-year-old bachelor was not the needed medication, hospital procedures, or assisted living facility. Rather, the card gave him access to contraceptives and family planning; useful for some but not for him.
I could gripe, but today's social services are better than former years' poor houses and starvation, thank you Charles Dickens and many lesser-knowns. I don't much lament that believers have handed to the state their personal calling and church calling to give. But there clearly exists a better approach than the current muddle, a better approach that starts with me more than my government.
Then an expert on the law stood up to test Jesus, saying, “Teacher, what must I do to get life forever?”
Jesus said, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?”
The man answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.” Also, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”
Jesus said to him, “Your answer is right. Do this and you will live.”
But the man, wanting to show the importance of his question, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
(Jesus then tells a story you can read in Luke chapter 10. I’m going to repeat what Jesus said about loving my neighbor, while looking back over my shoulder at what Jesus said about loving God.)
Jesus answered, “As a man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, some robbers attacked him. They tore off his clothes, beat him, and left him lying there, almost dead. It happened that a priest was going down that road. When he saw the man, he walked by on the other side. Next, a Levite came there, and after he went over and looked at the man, he walked by on the other side of the road.
Then a Samaritan traveling down the road came to where the hurt man was. When he saw the man, he felt very sorry for him.”
Love God with all your heart.
“The Samaritan went to him, poured olive oil and wine on his wounds, and bandaged them.”
Love God with all your soul.
“Then he put the hurt man on his own donkey and took him to an inn where he cared for him.”
Love God with all your strength.
“The next day, the Samaritan brought out two coins, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of this man. If you spend more money on him, I will pay it back to you when I come again.’”
Love God with all your mind.
Isn’t it interesting that what we may do for our neighbor quite matches what we may do for God?
I don’t have a simple recipe to optimize kindness. On reflection, I’m impressed by how well the story of the Good Samaritan structures the process of doing kindness, a process that in my experience "first does no harm" and in the end is most productive.
The story of the Good Samaritan suggests that with respect to kindness, there are three kinds of people.
Ought there be limits to kindness? How does one prioritize? How does my family, my church fit in? I aim to tell a few more tales and respond to such questions in a later installment.
Consider this concluding clip from Thailand. Do Christians own a monopoly on compassion? Ha! No!
The more important question: does compassion have a monopoly on you?
I have always been tenderhearted, and I will fight anyone who says otherwise.
The summer after I graduated first grade, one morning farm neighbor Tom brought to our house a large fish he had just caught. While Tom visited with my mother at our doorstep, likely discussing as at other times techniques of fish gutting, odd things found inside animals, and the best ingredients for breading, I gazed mournfully at the poor, gasping bass. Something kindled inside me. I slid the fish from Tom’s truck. I remember hugging to my chest the slippery load, a third as big as me. My back to the fish-murderers, I edged sideways. In the dusty shade under a bush, a favorite afternoon spot for the dog, I hid the bulge-eyed escapee. I aimed to snag a bucket and take the fugitive fish to a nearby pond.
But the breakout halted abruptly. “Have you seen my fish?” Tom asked the boy struggling with a bucket of water. On interrogation, I broke. I betrayed my fish friend.
I don’t recall the denouement, but it probably was tasty.
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another,
even as God in Christ forgave you.” - Ephesians 4:32.
A couple of years brought improved competence in compassion. In the back of a store I found a tub containing a hill of small turtles clambering over one another. I recall feeling sick and outraged at this turtle hell. I bought as many as I could. These five liberated turtles survived. Gentle use of solvents and water removed the smiley faces painted on them, an indignity any fool should know would warp their shells. Camped temporarily in a pen recently used by baby chicks, the refugees thrived on worms and corn flakes. They could seek sun, shade, or water as they liked. In mid-summer I released them under a tree at the nearby pond. I don’t recall considering that they could be invasive, but Missouri was not overrun by turtles.
Still irked that I had not redeemed the whole tub o' turtles, I was conflicted also that my buying only encouraged the turtle trafficker. Deciding not to risk smuggling, with dollars in hand I returned to the store. I was relieved to find no tub, no turtles. A decade later on that spot, I confess grim satisfaction on finding no store, only a vacant lot.
Surely you have had some such episodes of compassion. You know that rarely is kindness free from negative consequences, or at least the risk of them. That buck to a beggar buys booze. Helping a conscientious person embarrasses them. You know that if you give a mouse a cookie, you have just reinforced dependency, maybe co-dependency.
There is Robin Hood’s way to preserve the dignity of the poor by letting them earn their gift, as violently presented by the Monty Python crew. Though it demonstrates broader considerations, I don't recommend this approach.
There exist knaves and scammers who are only encouraged by a handout. Ought I save back to give to those more deserving, you know, to widows and orphans? To me? Given so many better uses of my money, I want just to look the other way. But conflicted again, I don't like to dismiss people, to pretend they don't exist. Often I look them in the eye and dolefully shake my head "no." I have waved and dispensed hearty fake wisdom, "take care!" I have offered inscrutable advice such as, "Give a man a fish, and he'll hide it under a bush."
Which is better for my heart, the risk of pride or the risk of hardening?
There are many ways helping can hurt, but I am reminded of the update from G. K. Chesterton: “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.” With plenty of opportunity for practice, I've learned to be of more help than harm in giving. In the next blog entry I aim to consider ways I found that the individual, the church, and society can better address need.
After thought and at least a flash prayer, often I just give money or time or transportation. It's not that I trust the recipient. Nor do I trust my own understanding or intuition. Rather I trust God, who repeatedly urges kindness. This is the God who "sends rain both to those who do right and to those who do wrong." This is the God who "will supply all your need according to his riches in Christ Jesus." This is the God who "made us to do good works."
In perhaps the oldest writing of the Bible, righteous Job states his practice of what sounds like unrestrained generosity:
“I have never refused the appeals of the poor
or let widows give up hope while looking for help.
I have not kept my food to myself
but have given it to the orphans.
Since I was young, I have been like a father to the orphans.
From my birth I guided the widows.
I have not let anyone die for lack of clothes
or let a needy person go without a coat.
That person’s heart blessed me,
because I warmed him with the wool of my sheep.
I have never hurt an orphan
even when I knew I could win in court.
If I have, then let my arm fall off my shoulder
and be broken at the joint.
I fear destruction from God,
and I fear his majesty, so I could not do such things."
- Job 31
I often pray, “God, please take care of needy people.”
What do I get back? “Greg, please take care of needy people.”
"I Like Turtles" Kid All Grown Up
At The Surge we love doing things together... that includes writing a blog! Here are a few of our main contributing authors:
Our fearless leader, Dwaine is the lead pastor at The Surge. His experience in counter terrorism with the CIA prepared him for ministry and he likes dogs and babies even more than E does.
E (short for Eric Reiss) is the Wingman at The Surge and likes dogs, music, Mexican food, his wife Karen and his little girl Evangeline... not necessarily in that order.